Up to this point, 2K Sports and Visual Concepts has had the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) license for a little over 2 years, and despite the feelings about WWE 2K15 being a disappointment, WWE 2K15 set a foundation for what the future of 8th generation professional wrestling games are to become. With improvements and changes to the stamina system from earlier THQ-era games such as SmackDown vs. Raw 2007, animations and graphical fidelity, as well as the addition of the chain wrestling mechanic, WWE 2K15 was, while not a critical success, a needed step in the right direction. Fast-forward one year, and we have WWE 2K16, a further step into what was considered a divisive moment in the history of the series…a move into the simulation realm, which 2K excels at. Is the movement towards a simulation wrestling experience the shot in the arm that the former SmackDown vs. Raw series needs? Or will it prove to be poison in the veins of a once great series?
Game Name: WWE 2K16
Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Publisher(s): 2K Sports
Developer(s): Visual Concepts/Yuke’s
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Price: $59.99 ($89.99 Digital Deluxe w/MyPlayer Kickstart, $79.99 w/out)
This year, the core theme of the game play is not to work harder but work smarter. The reworked reversal system plays into that notion, where every Superstar and Diva has a varying, but limited, amount of reversal stocks at their disposal, creating a real need for fighting game-type meter management at all times. I found myself absorbing quite the beating at times after blowing through my reversal stocks, and on occasion, I paid the price by absorbing a huge finisher or OMG moment, instead of being able to turn the momentum in my favor. However, when managed correctly, you can easily turn the match in your favor with a minor reversal, or really turn the tables with a major reversal, knocking your opponent for a loop long enough for you to set up the finishing moment.
In conjunction, the Working Hold system brings back a familiar mechanic from the Day of Reckoning series of games, with a slight twist. Instead of being submission based, the working hold system allows you to perform rest holds, which saps your opponent’s stamina while feeding yours. It’s great for those moments in the match where you’re in danger of not having enough stamina to perform your signature move or your finishing maneuver, or if you’re low on reversal stocks and need to stall for time to gain at least one and a half stocks to keep you in the game.
Speaking of submissions, the submission system has been changed to mimic the old UFC Undisputed system, where you have to overlay your bar in the opponent’s bar to submit your opponent. It is infinitely better than the button mashing system, at least to me, where I find myself having to actually play against my opponent to get the tap out, as opposed to “AYY, HOO CAN MURSH A BUTTON DA FASTER?~!”
Content in this game is at a premium, with the return of the creation suite for WWE 2K16. While not as fully featured as previous games, the create modes in this game are intense. From the ability to choose the material of your gear, importing your face into your custom characters, creating a show, an arena and even the return of the custom championship creator, there’s a lot more to do for those who are interested in fantasy wrestling on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There are also several more names added to the commentary and Lilian Garcia’s “vocabulary,” so more people can start using their real name if they so wish. Hearing my NBA 2K name (“The Natural” Clinton Bowman) be announced in WWE 2K16 was such a joy for me, as this was something that was requested for a while.
MyCareer mode is also a lot more fleshed out this time around, centering around the experience of being a WWE Superstar, rising from WWE NXT, getting the NXT Championship, headlining WrestleMania, and joining the WWE Hall of Fame. One of the premier features of My Career has to be the ability to choose which championship you go for, as well as developing relationships between your superstar and others on the roster. How does one maintain those relationships? Little things like what you do in the ring during matches, run-ins and interviews with Renee Young. Complete an objective from the Authority? Expect some of your allies to either like you more or like you less. Get yourself DQ’d from a 5-star match? That’ll affect your relationships as well. Attack a superstar before his match? Support a superstar during his match? They also affect your status as well. Essentially, the choices you make affect everything about your superstar, including whether or not they are a good guy (face) or a bad guy (heel.) Your ultimate goal is to get to the WWE Hall of Fame, and much like in previous NBA 2K titles, there are objectives that you must fulfill before you are afforded entry into the WWE Hall of Fame.
WWE Online has honestly been my favorite mode to play outside of MyCareer. The servers have been working properly for me, so I managed to get a few matches under my belt, as well as a few wins before people started to abuse un-reversible moves. The practice mode before matches vs the AI is useful to get an XP boost of up to 20%, based on your performance against the AI while the matchmaking was done. The gameplay online has been pretty smooth, and almost lag free, a vast improvement on previous iterations of the series, and 2 for 2 on working servers on launch day for 2K Sports games this year.
In terms of atmosphere, the game looks and feels like a WWE live event. You can hear the “Suplex City” chants when Brock Lesnar starts going H.A.M. with the suplexes. When the New Day starts clapping, you get “NEW…DAY SUCKS!” chants, and you get the “Let’s Go Cena” chants if you’re in a match with Big Match John. Even in NXT, you get “NXT” chants and the customary “This is Awesome” chants if you’re putting on a hell of a match. The arenas are standard fare in terms of the design, but they now include the LCD board on the hard camera side of the ring, as made popular on NXT a few months prior to the introduction on the main roster.
As for the talent models (and the roster size is bananas as it is,) Most of the modern day, and even a majority of the retro superstars look exactly like their counterparts, with a few exceptions. Natalya looks like NXT’s Dana Brooke for some odd reason, and Ken Shamrock looks older than he was, and Nikki Bella isn’t busty enough, and Renee Young looks off. Renee herself has admitted that she wasn’t a fan of her in-game model.
My only gripes about this game begin with the AI. It’s not even a major gripe, but there are times where the AI works beautifully, and mimics the superstar that it is controlling, but then there are the “DOES NOT COMPUTE” or the overly aggressive moments that the AI can have. It has driven me crazy on occasion, but nothing that was too egregious that made me want to throw my controller, so that was a plus. In addition, some of the entrances are simply out of date. Emma has her heel theme, but her entrance is copy pasted from WWE 2K15. As a matter of fact, a lot of the entrances are copy pasted from WWE 2K15, and some sound cues are either too low, or either so that was a little bit of a downer.
The Time is Now for WWE 2K16!
WWE 2K16 is definitely the perfect blend of fun and competitive gameplay, and a definite shot in the arm for this series to date, being a step in the right direction that the series needed after setting the foundation with WWE 2K15.
- Improved Gameplay
- Roster Size is the largest it’s ever been
- MyCareer is immersive
- Online is better than it’s ever been
- Visual and Audio presentation can be janky.